POLUMBO: When Will the Left’s ‘Conservative Columnists’ Give up the Gimmick?

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Thursday, July 5, 2018


George Will. Max Boot. Jennifer Rubin. David Brooks.

A few years ago, the names of these prominent columnists would have reminded us that while most mainstream newspapers do lean to the left, there were a few prominent conservative voices present in their pages. But in the era of Trump, these “conservative columnists” are anything but. They’ve jumped on the anti-Trump bandwagon and chosen the left’s adoration over their commitment to conservative principles.

Max Boot just wrote an op-ed entitled “I left the Republican Party. Now I Want Democrats to Take Over.” George Will, long a conservative icon, penned a piece encouraging people to vote against the GOP this November.

Jennifer Rubin’s WaPo column, ironically still labeled “Right Turn,” has devolved into a demented stream of Trump Derangement Syndrome. She’s rallied against President Trump, #resisted the tax cuts, and rebelled against the pro-life cause — yet Rubin still presents herself as conservative, or at least as right-of-center. This gets to the heart of the issue with the left’s faux-conservative columnists — they allow newspapers and big media alike to feign intellectual diversity while actually existing as an echo chamber on the issues that matter most.

Newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post aren’t explicitly ideological publications. Even if in practice they lean heavily to the left, in theory they dedicate their opinion pages to debate, discussion, and diversity of opinion. So it makes sense that they’re expected to employ at least a handful of conservative columnists—but right now, that’s not the case. Rubin, Boot, Will and others alike may not be liberals, but they’re not even close to conservative anymore.

With the few conservative voices in the mainstream media flipping sides, there’s almost no one in the opinion sections of many mainstream publications and newspapers espousing the ideology of half the country. The Washington Post employs socialists and the New York Times op-ed page has their fair share of radicals, which is fine, even admirable. All ideas, within reason, should be represented. But why isn’t there one obvious pro-Trump columnist at any of the major liberal publications that claim to value diversity of ideas?

It’s almost as if they’re afraid. Look at what happened to the Atlantic when they hired Kevin Williamson, a respectable conservative writer who even opposes Trump. Liberal outrage pressured the Atlantic’s owner to reverse his decision and fire Williamson, as the idea of one conservative infiltrating the safe-space of a liberal magazine was too much for readers to bear. But by giving into mob outrage and only shallowly embracing ideological diversity, once-great liberal newspapers and magazines engage in an act of intellectual cowardice—and deprive their readers of exposure to alternative arguments, only further fueling political polarization.

None of this is to say Trump should be above reproach. The president does deserve criticism when he makes callous comments like he did post-Charlottesville, enacts idiotic trade policies, or implements cruel immigration policies. But by adopting a reflexively anti-Trump position, even when the president enacts a basic conservative agenda like tax cuts, these “conservative columnists” lose all credibility.

If anything, these writers are passing up on an amazing opportunity to speak to a liberal audience. Instead of constantly bashing on Trump and the GOP, as their colleagues will surely do, they should search for rare areas of agreements, or topics where they can argue a conservative perspective to their liberal audience. Additionally, it’s fine if these columnists have changed their perspective, and now identify as moderate, or even liberals — but it’s time for the false advertising to stop.

As long as the New York Times and the Washington Post continue to pay false homage to intellectual diversity with their faux-conservative columnists, the American people will continue to view the left-wing media with skepticism — and frankly, who can blame them?  


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About Bradley Polumbo

Brad Polumbo is a student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is an outspoken critic of PC culture and a free-speech advocate. His focus is on cultural issues and civil liberties.

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